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Why does wireless networking hate me?


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24 replies to this topic

#1 of 25 OFFLINE   Vince Maskeeper

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Posted June 20 2005 - 12:15 PM

I'm going to try to keep this as brief as possible, but I have a long horrible history with wireless networking... and it continues.

Vincenet 1.0
Location: Ohio
Equipment: Linksys 802.11b Router and Linksys network cards (one PCI on Win98, one PCMCIA on XP).

-Desktop: Machine running Win98 was approximately 20 feet from the router- would not establish or maintain a reliable network connection.
-Laptop: machine running XP would work marginally at one end of the couch (About 18 feet from the router). Would not see the network AT ALL when seated on the other end of the couch (a move of less than 6 feet).
-I had a HTPC machine, one floor below the router and about 6 feet away, but it would NEVER see the wireless network. Since I had no option to move that computer, I gave up the first day, ran some cat5 and had zero problems.
-Diagnosis: Try updating the win98 machine with XP so I could stop using the buggy linksys configuration utility and use XP's native wireless config. Instead of updating, I just bought a brand new machine.

Vincenet 1.5
Location: Ohio
Equipment: Linksys 802.11b Router and Linksys network cards (one PCI on XP in brand new dell machine, one PCMCIA on XP).

-NEW Desktop: Machine running XP would not establish or maintain a reliable network connection.
-Laptop: Machine worked as in Vincenet 1.0. On a side note, running the microwave or using the cordless phone would completely kill the wireless network.
-Diagnosis: Lift the new PC up off the floor location and anchor it to the side of the desk at a height of about 2 feet, this improved network reliability- although still far from perfect. Used laptop only in northernmost couch cushion. Stopped using cordless phone. Stopped cooking food.

Vincenet 2.0
Location: Los Angeles
Equipment: DIFFERENT, Newer Linksys 802.11b Router and Linksys network cards (one PCMCIA laptop on XP, one PCI desktop 802.11g Card on XP).

-NOTE: This new router was used previously by my roomate in a different location and worked flawlessly, even on the ground floor of a 3 story house at ranges in excess of 40 feet- using the exact same laptop and card!
-Laptop: Cannot establish and maintain a reliable network connection in excess of 1.0mbps. Laptop is located about 18 feet from the router. The laptop CAN however establish robust and reliable connections to the various unsecured networks of my neighbors, including ones in neighboring apartments as well as neighboring BUILDINGS some 60+ feet away!
-Desktop: The desktop will not see the household network AT ALL. The desktop machine is exactly 22 feet from the router with LINE OF SIGHT between the two. Only when I pull the machine out into the middle of the floor (closing the distance to 18 feet) will it see my network. The desktop can, however, see several of the neighbors networks (although oddly not nearly as many as the PCMCIA card with smaller antenna can see).
-Diagnosis: Screw this. Throw the router away, buy a new 802.11g router and a new 802.11g card for the laptop!


Vincenet 3.0
Location: Los Angeles
Equipment: DIFFERENT, Brand New Linksys 802.11g Router and Linksys network cards (one 802.11g PCMCIA laptop on XP, one PCI desktop 802.11g Card on XP).

-Laptop: Connection drops out every 15 minutes or so, although when connected it shows 4 bars of signal strength and locks at 54.0maps! Then the network is just gone! When the network VANISHES, I am able to see (and connect to) any one of a half-dozen unsecure wireless networks in the apartments or buildings around me- it just won't see mine.
-Desktop: Moved the desktop across the room- now distance between the router and card is about 10-12 feet. Card will not connect to the network any faster than 11.0mbps, shows "very low" signal at all times. Double checked, card is 802.11g and I can set the network to "G only" and the card still connects- however only at 11.0.
If i touch the antenna on the card it will drop to 1.0mbps for an hour or so to punish me. I once tried tightening the antenna to the card and it stopped seeing any networks for 3 days.
Tried reinstalling the card, upgrading drivers, changing channels on the router and more. Nothing works.
Diagnosis: Shoot myself.


Bottomline?

I have never been able to establish and maintain reliable wireless networking connections- despite being in 2 different location, using 3 different routers (2 different protocols), 5 different cards, 5 different computers, 2 different operating systems.

I worked in LAN support for 2 years and am pretty good at troubleshooting, but the only thing I can think that i haven't changed is me. I'm beginning to think i'm made of some sort of radio-absorbing stealth technology and should license myself to the government.

Ugh.

-V
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#2 of 25 OFFLINE   ThomasC

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Posted June 20 2005 - 12:19 PM

Diagnosis: Stop using Linksys.

#3 of 25 OFFLINE   Vince Maskeeper

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Posted June 20 2005 - 12:31 PM

Diagnosis: Stop using Linksys.

Thomas,

I new this would be the first response I would get, so I already had the response typed and ready! Posted Image

While I would agree with this in theory, and have some plan to try this in the very near future, I would counter:

1) Of the 6 networks I can currently "see" from my neighborhood, 5 of them are linksys (one is netgear). I know this because in addition to not securing their network, none of them changed the default admin password. I have little/no trouble connecting to neighboring linksys networks up to 100 feet away! It's just the one I can physically SEE that gives me fits.

2) While it's possible to get a lemon device here or there, I find it hard to believe that I've gotten 3. While I would not argue if linksys is the best solution out there, I would say there are hundreds of thousands of users on linksys right this second that have not had the problems I have. And my linksys cards seem to work great as long as it's not my network.


I have looked at routers from other companies (including connecting to those of my neighbors) but the configuration options of port forwarding, triggering, etc seem extremely limited- where as all the options in the linksys in terms of config and security seem to be EONS beyond the other stuff I've seen.

If someone else knows or a decent, reliable, reasonably priced wireless device that acts as router for the dsl, DHCP, and has 4-6 wired ports with the same configuration level of the Linksys (but still actually works without giant configuration hassles)-- please let me know!

In the meantime, I was hoping someone might have any thoughts on what on earth I must be doing wrong when the rest of the world seems to be wi-fi'ing all over the place and I can't leave the room.

-V
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#4 of 25 OFFLINE   Joseph DeMartino

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Posted June 20 2005 - 01:34 PM

Who is your ISP? I have Bellsouth and I use a wireless router/gateway/dsl modem from 2Wire that they provided. It only has a single ethernet port, but I have a cheap Netgear hub that lets me connect other devices at need. The router only supports 802.1b (they're going to start carrying a "g" solution in mid July, and I'm already on the waiting list.)

I currently have the following devices networked together sharing files and connecting to the internet via the gateway/router:

Home office/2nd bedroom desktop PC running Windows XP Pro. Connected to the router/gateway via ethernet cable.

Laptop computer running Windows XP Home Edition, 15 feet or so from the router on the far side of the bedroom wall. Connects via 2Wire PCcard NIC at 11 Mbps.

TiVo in living room. Maybe 5 feet closer to the router than the laptop. Linksys wireless network adapter.

TiVo in bedroom, two feet from router, but it was still easeier to connect it using a wireless Netgear USB network adapter for the time being. (I'm going with an ethernet cable connection to the "G" router next month.)

They all work. The TiVos can trade programs, the PCs share printers and files, everything shares the DSL connection (which means the TiVos don't need a phone connection and they update a heck of a lot faster.) And I can transfer my saved TiVo programs for later viewing or archiving to DVD.

I suspect the key to all of this is the integrated gateway/DSL modem/router. That's why I've been patiently waiting for BellSouth to offer a wireless "g" solution for the past year, rather than trying to piggy-back another piece of equipment onto the network to speed up the file transfers among the various TiVo and PC hard drives. I had tried to set up a wireless network with my old, non-wireless 2Wire gateway and a 3rd party router, and it was a nightmare. That's when I upgraded to the wireless "b" system, and it has worked fine since. You might want to check with your ISP and see what solutions they offer.

Regards,

Joe

#5 of 25 OFFLINE   Mike_J_Potter

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Posted June 20 2005 - 02:51 PM

Quote:
I have looked at routers from other companies (including connecting to those of my neighbors) but the configuration options of port forwarding, triggering, etc seem extremely limited- where as all the options in the linksys in terms of config and security seem to be EONS beyond the other stuff I've seen.


Hmm maybe try a normal wired gateway and a external wap. You can get Cisco Aironet 350 waps for cheap on ebay. We have them in the field at my job and they rock solid even with multiple waps from other companies on site. Also do you have your PC setup with your WAP as the highest priority? I know I had issues with mine connecting to a neighbors wap (it would attempt to connect then prompt me for a wep key), until I changed the order even though mine was 20 feet away it would go to the other one.
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#6 of 25 OFFLINE   Chris Hovanic

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Posted June 21 2005 - 05:39 AM

Might adjust what channel your using. Your 802.11 b or g wireless system should be able to co-exist with the other 2.4ghz stuff you have.

I can connect to my linkysys which is in the front most corner of my garage from anywhere on my property (10,000 sf lot) that includes upstairs in my wifes closet at the complete opposite end of the house.

There should be no reason your having these problems.

Have someone else use your laptop in your place while you are about 1-5 miles away. If they can connect and stay connected I would say sell yourself to NASA or the CIA... Im sure they would find you quite usefull Posted Image
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#7 of 25 OFFLINE   Jeff_CusBlues

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Posted June 21 2005 - 06:38 AM

Chris. How do you co-exist with your 2.4 GHz stuff? I have a 2.4 GHz phone and every time it is used, my wireless disconnects. I use a Linksys 802.11b router. Is there something I can do to stop this? You mention something about changing channels. How is this done? Thanks.

#8 of 25 OFFLINE   Vince Maskeeper

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Posted June 21 2005 - 09:24 AM

Might adjust what channel your using. Your 802.11 b or g wireless system should be able to co-exist with the other 2.4ghz stuff you have.
You mention something about changing channels. How is this done?


You can go into the setup for your router (you remember 192.168.1.1) and it allows you to change the broadcast channels. IIRC there are 11 options.

I have tried various channel choices, although I guess I can't say I've tried them all... I usually go for extremes, if 1 doesn't work, try 11, then 5. Maybe I will play with trying each one at a time and see if the desktop will ever go beyond 11.0Mbps.

Who is your ISP? I have Bellsouth and I use a wireless router/gateway/dsl modem from 2Wire that they provided. It only has a single ethernet port, but I have a cheap Netgear hub that lets me connect other devices at need. The router only supports 802.1b (they're going to start carrying a "g" solution in mid July, and I'm already on the waiting list.)


My isp is SBC... although to be clear the actual path from the internet to my network is flawless. I have a net of 6 wired computers and all of them work flawlessly. The SBC connection is rock solid and VERY fast (the local junction is about 50 feet from my place).

I dunno if SBC offers a wireless solution, although in this day and age it would likely be a OEM version of a linksys box, lol.

Also do you have your PC setup with your WAP as the highest priority? I know I had issues with mine connecting to a neighbors wap (it would attempt to connect then prompt me for a wep key), until I changed the order even though mine was 20 feet away it would go to the other one.


Oh, my machines don't jump networks on their own. I have each machine configured with one and only one preferred network. It's only when my network vanishes that I ever experiement with connections to other neighboring networks (and I remove them from the preferred list).

Of note, I have also tried activating/deactivating the SSID broadcast on the unit, which made little difference.

The DSL modem is rather close (physically) to the router-- although I doubt this would cause problems, my next experiment is going to be to make sure there is a minimum of 6 feet between the router and the modem...

Have someone else use your laptop in your place while you are about 1-5 miles away.


LOL. Well my roomate CLAIMS that it works better when I'm not here- but that has yet to be subjected to any scientific investigation.
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#9 of 25 OFFLINE   Jeff_CusBlues

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Posted June 22 2005 - 05:12 AM

Thanks, Vince. I've found the area you discussed and am trying to find the best channel. Trial and error seems to be the order of the day. Thanks again.

Jeff

#10 of 25 OFFLINE   Vince Maskeeper

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Posted June 22 2005 - 07:33 AM

As I have set checking my email and poking around the web this morning, on this laptop- maybe 20 feet from the router, in the course of an hour the wireless network has vanished 3 time.

I have not moved the machine one inch. I have not touched the router, have not used (or own) a cordless phone, have not microwaved food, have not hiccuped, belched or sneezed.

Each time, bringing up the available network list and refreshing does not show my networks (and ssid is ON at the router), however if i right click the wireless icon and select repair- by the time it disables the adapter and resets it, the network is back- and I re-establish a connect (signal strength 4 bars "Very Good" with 54.0Mbps).

Ugh.
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#11 of 25 OFFLINE   ThomasC

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Posted June 22 2005 - 07:53 AM

The same thing happened to me when I installed a Linksys wireless router in my parents' house. My sister kept on losing the connection and getting it back.

#12 of 25 OFFLINE   Vince Maskeeper

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Posted June 22 2005 - 08:28 AM

So, Thomas, what do you use instead?

Oh, and it's dropped out another 4-5 times in the last 2 hours.
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#13 of 25 OFFLINE   ThomasC

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Posted June 22 2005 - 09:06 AM

I haven't cared to get a replacement. I got it mainly to set up more than one wired connection in the house, and it was on sale for $20 after MIR at Best Buy, so the wireless was basically a bonus. My sister is the only one in our family with a laptop and isn't there very much anymore.

Have you tried unplugging everything in the house except for the router, modem and laptop and see if the connection is still flaky?

#14 of 25 OFFLINE   Joseph DeMartino

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Posted June 22 2005 - 11:55 AM

BTW, you can also change channels on your 2.4 ghz cordless phones, which can be less of a hassle than doing the same with your wireless LAN. For those that are having this problem.

#15 of 25 OFFLINE   David Norman

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Posted June 22 2005 - 03:27 PM

Vince, are you using the Windows wireless program to do the connections -- I can't think of the name of the program right now. I had nothing but trouble with the built in, but downloaded Intel PROSet and the laptop to LinkSys WRT54G has basically been rock solid since then. I tried my old NetGear with minimal success,a Microsoft wireless which was OK, but would spaz out more than occasionally, but the Linksys has been great. I don't have a 2.4 phone to mess up things, but no other electrical device in the house interferes with the router.

#16 of 25 OFFLINE   Hank_P

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Posted June 23 2005 - 02:14 AM

"1) Of the 6 networks I can currently "see" from my neighborhood, 5 of them are linksys (one is netgear). I know this because in addition to not securing their network, none of them changed the default admin password. I have little/no trouble connecting to neighboring linksys networks up to 100 feet away! It's just the one I can physically SEE that gives me fits."

I wonder if this is causing the wireless router problems? As suggested before, changing the channels would have been my first suggestion. I've also seen where XP has wanted to try and connect to "other" networks it sees if there is any "bleep" in the local network. I found this by testing stuff on my wife's notebook. I have all wireless linksys gear, and have not had any issues described. Check to see if you wireless is trying to connect to other networks?

Change the network name to something unique.
Change the channel on the network.
Use WEP encrypt. either 64 or 128.
To get it setup, turn on "Broadcast"

you've probably over and over I'm guessing Posted Image

#17 of 25 OFFLINE   Kimmo Jaskari

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Posted June 23 2005 - 08:13 AM

That cutting-out-and-then-reconnecting thing sounds very much like the router is the culprit. Any firmware updates available for it by any chance? If not, try another router from another manufacturer... just not D-Link, cheap crud.

I have had good success with a 3com Officeconnect router myself.

How are you situated vertically? Ie, is your gear spread out horizontally or vertically? A normally positioned antenna (standing vertically) will transmit very well to the sides, but virtually zip either directly above and below. The signal travels in a doughnut shape where the antenna stands vertically in the middle of the "doughnut hole" - that's something to keep in mind. Rotating the antenna will give great reception above and below and not so much to the sides (ie "rotating the doughnut"... Posted Image )
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#18 of 25 OFFLINE   Andy_Steb

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Posted June 24 2005 - 03:39 PM

Vince,

As you stated, you have no problems seeing (and connecting to) your neighborhood unsecured networks but have troubles with dropouts on your secure network. Are there any bells and whistle starting to go off?

I have had horrible times with dropouts with my Linksys router and WEP encryption enabled.

Here is something to try.
Disable security on the WAP (no encryption)
Enable the MAC filter to permit only (Mac addresses of your wireless access cards)

Of coarse the guys in the white vans with funny antennas sticking out the windows can spoof your MAC address and break into your network. But the same guys can also break your WEP key in about 10 mins.

#19 of 25 OFFLINE   Kimmo Jaskari

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Posted June 25 2005 - 06:04 AM

10 minutes is a lot better than 10 seconds... Hiding the SSID and/or MAC filtering is completely ineffective as a security solution.

If Linksys gear can't do encryption reliably, they belong in a landfill somewhere (or in our enlightened times - a recycling center somewhere...)

WPA isn't nearly as easily cracked as WEP, either, but all the wireless gear has to support it of course.
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#20 of 25 OFFLINE   Parker Clack

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Posted June 25 2005 - 08:54 AM

Vince:

Do you not have an Ethernet output on your PC to hardwire it into you router/hub? I mean why are you using a wireless connection for your desktop?

I have been using the Linksys router/hub on my network for years now with no problem. I have my daughters computer hooked up wirelessly, my ReplayTV has a wireless connection and my HTPC has a wireless connection and all work without a hitch.

I would look into your network connection for your laptop and PC. When I tried to use the built in network connection from Microsoft it would even connect to the network. Then I used the network connection that came with my PC, that is the NVidia Adaptor and all worked without a hitch. Are you using the network adaptor that came with your cards from Linksys?

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